Oriental New Seagull Black And White Paper

Oriental's New Seagull family of black and white papers.
Photos © Tom Fuller, 2000

It seems the faster digital imaging technology leaps forward, the stronger the rally becomes for traditional cameras and sensitized materials. Regular Shutterbug readers are aware of the new interest in rangefinder 35mm cameras--the last one I owned was an SB UGLY "collectible" in the late 1970s--as well as the rise in popularity of conventional and even antique photo processes. Black and white certainly has a new and secure lease on life, with developing tanks and enlargers as plentiful as the latest version of Photoshop.

It is therefore not surprising that Oriental, makers of the paper Ansel Adams, Brett Weston, and a host of other masters printed on, has reintroduced and expanded its New Seagull line. The almost legendary ability of these Japanese-made papers to produce truly dense blacks and really brilliant whites continues to set them apart from the crowd. The wider selection gives printers of every creative orientation the choice of returning to familiar material or the chance to try something new and exciting.

New Seagull G, Oriental's flagship, features a cold-tone, silver-rich emulsion on a robust double-weight fiber base topped with a protective coat. The paper is made in grades 2, 3, and 4, with ISO speeds/ranges of P640/R100, P400/R80, and P200/R60, respectively. The manufacturer's recommendation of a 15w yellow-green safelight at a minimum distance of 3' should be taken seriously, as this sensitive emulsion is quite prone to fogging. A 90 sec developing time in Dektol 1:2 at 68ÞF is a good starting point, and while the image can be widely manipulated through exposure and development variation, the risk of fogging creeps in at soup times over nine minutes.

Papers able to reproduce the jet blacks and brilliant whites demanded by serious photographers have returned with the New Seagull line from Oriental. Made on Select VC-RP, one of their fast-working resin protected papers, this print has an image range and depth typical of traditional fiber-based papers. Oriental makes New Seagull in graded and VC versions, on fiber and RP base, in a choice of surfaces.

The variable contrast version is the New Seagull Select VC-FB. This emulsion spans the full grade 0-5 range when exposed with dichroic heads, dedicated VC heads, or individual filters, although testing and fine-tuning will naturally be required. ISO speed/range varies from P100-400/R60-160 depending upon printing method, and the paper must be handled (again briefly) under dim amber safelighting. Care must be taken not to overfix New Seagull G or Select VC-FB so as not to bleach the shadow areas, and natural or low-heat drying should be used to prevent maximum density shift. The deep, rich image is beautifully enhanced with selenium, a toner to which both smooth glossy papers take exceptionally well.

The medium-weight base of Seagull RP-M is protected against chemical absorption by thin layers of polyethylene, the top one mixed with titanium oxide for cleaner whites. This fine matte paper requires the same safelight as New Seagull G and has an ISO speed/range or P640/R110, P400/R90, and P320/R70 for its available grades of 2, 3, and 4. Developing time is 60-90 sec in most standard developers. Fixing and washing takes five minutes each, although gentle wash agitation is necessary to keep the sharp, stiff corners of the RP base from gouging neighboring prints. A medium-heat hair dryer finishes RP-M quickly and flat. New Seagull Select VC-RP, available in smooth glossy surface, is the variable contrast equivalent with an ISO speed/range of P125-400/R50-120.

New Seagull RP is a general-use graded paper with a resin protected medium-weight base made in smooth glossy and smooth luster surfaces. The ISO speed/range of grades 2, 3, and 4 is P640/R110, P400/R90, and P320/R70. Again, the high sensitivity requires a dim yellow-green safelight and careful handling. Development is 60-90 sec, with fixing, washing, and drying the same as for other RP papers. Despite the similarity of the specs to other fast-working materials on the market, the dense blacks and glistening whites of the Seagull RP series clearly separates it from much of the competition--these are papers that truly must be used to be appreciated.

Finally, while I have not yet had the opportunity to try it, I'm very excited about Oriental Hyper Seagull. Processed in RA-4 color chemicals, this unique resin-coated paper yields black and white prints from color or black and white negatives. Image tone can be varied from neutral black to deep sepia by changing color filtration in the printer or enlarger. Originally produced only in long rolls for machine printing, sheet sizes of Hyper Seagull are in the works and may be out by the time this issue reaches you.

For more information, contact International Supplies, 945 W Hyde Park Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90302; (800) 999-1984; fax: (310)-673-5988; www.orientalphotousa.com.